And to top it all off, each updated edition keeps getting better and better. For example, the current edition is correlated to the common core standards. Lessons were revised so that they could include the skills that the common core required. Also, a new practice book was created so that students could have opportunities for extra practice if they need it. I know that my students really benefit from the repeated independent practice! Finally, there is an electronic component that allows teachers to project games and lessons on their whiteboards. Students can be called up to the board to handle virtual manipulatives with our Mimio Teach device or solve problems by writing the answer with the stylus.
All of these changes have been extremely positive and have made a positive difference in our classrooms in regards to student achievement. However, we as teachers have to make the call on how to spend our precious minutes with our students. Despite how wonderful I think the new digital components are, I have discovered that my students benefit more from the traditional way of teaching, than they do from the new, more-engaging style.
Here is what my 60 minute math period looks like on a typical day (I will write how the step utilizes 21st Century skills in red):
- I do some sample problems for them and they watch.
- Then, they help me complete some on the board.
- Then, they do some in their notebooks while I walk around and assist.
- Finally, they do one or two on their own and we check our answers.
(5) With a few minutes left in the period, I hand out their homework, ask them to write it down in their Assignment Notebooks, and we start to transition to our next subject. (Students learn independent responsibility by writing their homework down themselves. They learn to rely on a system that works for them for communicating to their "After-School Self." By the end of the year (it takes the whole year for many of my kiddos), they have mastered a system that they will use for their middle school years. Since students have to write down their homework, put their materials into their backpacks, and get ready for the next lesson, this is a chance to learn how to be a quick-thinking multi-tasker.)
So if you walked into my classroom during a math lesson, you might not realize how "21st Century" the hour really is! I don't turn on the projector, we don't use our iPads or laptops, and students are taking notes while I lecture! But now you know all of the 21st Century skills that my students are practicing. When they leave fifth grade, they are very prepared for their world, and math class was a vital component of that preparation. :)